ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (CN) — Attorneys for three landowners who say Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC trespassed, cut down hardwood trees and buried a crude oil pipeline, effectively expropriating their land, expressed frustration Thursday at the conclusion of a trial that the judge will not allow more discussion of the public and environmental toll of pipelines and oil and gas in general.
“This corporation decided for purely financial reasons that they didn’t want to wait for due process [before seizing privately owned land and constructing on it],” said Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola Law School and one of the plaintiffs’ pro bono attorneys.
“Our position is very clear. We have a billion-dollar corporation, from Delaware, and it’s coming into Louisiana, violating our constitution, violating our state laws, violating the U.S. Constitution, all of which guarantee that people’s property is not taken without due process of law. This billion-dollar corporation decided — for purely financial reasons — that they didn’t want to wait [to construct their pipeline]. They knew for a year they didn’t have permission — not just from the three people listed in this suit but from hundreds of landowners in St. Martin Parish. They made a conscious decision. They knew it was illegal, and they went ahead and they got on that property,” Quigley said.
The 162-mile Bayou Bridge Pipeline is jointly owned by Entergy Transfer Partners, which merged with Sunoco in 2012, and Phillips 66. It was designed to carry almost half a million gallons of crude oil a day across 11 Louisiana parishes and 700 water bodies, from Nederland, Texas to St. James Parish, roughly 50 miles from New Orleans. Louisiana has parishes rather than counties.
Energy Transfer Partners also built and owns the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline will be the final leg connecting the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota with Louisiana export terminals. Energy Secretary Rick Perry resigned from Energy Transfer Partners’ Board of Directors in late 2016 after being nominated to his current office by President Donald Trump. He had held the position ever since the end of his office as governor of Texas.
The three landowner plaintiffs in this case are represented pro bono by attorneys with Loyola University, the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit.
They say Bayou Bridge asked for the 38-acre parcel of wetlands at issue through a lawsuit seeking expropriation in September, after the company had already made public statements that work on the pipeline was nearly complete.
Under Louisiana law, utilities have the authority to expropriate property if they can prove it is for the public benefit.
An Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson acknowledged during a Nov. 16 pretrial hearing that the company was not able to reach all of the hundreds of owners, nor obtain property rights to all of the 38-acre parcel of land.
“They admit that they didn’t have permission,” Quigley said outside the St. Martin Parish courthouse Thursday after the two-and-a-half day trial.
“They admit that there are hundreds of landowners that they didn’t get permission from and they just went ahead and did it anyway. They totally disregarded the constitution, disregarded state law.”